HASC Says Continue With Increment 1 VH-71s

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By Bettina H. Chavanne

The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) expressed its disappointment in the Navy’s management of the VH-71 presidential helicopter program and recommended DOD continue with procurement of Increment 1 helicopters.

The HASC is in the midst of marking up the defense budget request for Fiscal 2010. Lawmakers noted the $85.2 million included in the budget for a presidential helicopter recapitalization program as well as recent cancellation of the program. The committee also noted its disappointment, both with the $3.3 billion already invested in the program and that “the Navy’s acquisition system was not provided adequate support, resources and authority by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the White House Military Office to execute a successful acquisition program.”

There’s plenty of blame to go around, but the language in the mark-up takes some of the heat off the Navy, pointing to unreasonable demands from the White House and DOD instead. “Navy acquisition officials were directed by [DOD and the White House] to execute a schedule-driven program and were unable to adequately synchronize and adhere to prudent acquisition practices,” lawmakers wrote.

The committee supports a new acquisition plan that could include two helicopters. But with costs potentially spiraling to $17 billion for that option, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report, the committee “strongly suggests” DOD continues with procurement of the current Increment 1 helicopters for use as “normal transport.”

Photo: Lockheed Martin

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